Legal machinations push back Louisiana abortion law date

January 26, 2019 GMT

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The date that a law requiring doctors at Louisiana abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals goes into effect has been delayed a week.

The law was set to take effect Monday, but court filings Friday caused it to be pushed back to Feb. 4.

Meanwhile, abortion rights advocates plan an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court has struck down a Texas admitting privileges law, which opponents say creates an unnecessary regulatory burden for clinics.


But a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans upheld Louisiana’s version in September, agreeing with abortion opponents who say it doesn’t create an unconstitutional burden. The full court voted 9-6 last week against a re-hearing in the case. As a result, the law was to take effect Monday.

On Friday, the 5th Circuit quickly denied a motion seeking a delay in the effective date. But the motion triggered a seven-day delay under court rules.

The majority opinion in the 5th Circuit’s September ruling held that the Louisiana law didn’t impose the same burdens on women as the Texas law. It said the Louisiana law’s opponents overstated the difficulty abortion doctors would have in obtaining admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and the burden the law would put on women seeking abortions.

Strong dissents were filed in the case by two 5th Circuit judges.

Supporters of the law in Louisiana lamented the efforts to delay implementation.

“It is disappointing that the abortion industry has again delayed enforcement of this law,” Benjamin Clapper, Executive Director of Louisiana Right to Life, said in a news release. “Abortion facilities should not receive special loopholes opting them out of requirements that apply to all other outpatient surgical facilities.”

Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said the 5th Circuit had ignored Supreme Court precedent.

“Just two years ago, the Supreme Court struck down an identical admitting privileges law,” she said in a news release. “The intent of these laws is clear — to shut down clinics and to make it even harder for Louisiana women to access abortion. Only three abortion clinics are left in Louisiana, and under the Fifth Circuit’s ruling, more will close.”